Is UKREiiF planning to leave Leeds?
While the 2024 edition will be held in Yorkshire for the third consecutive year, organisers have confirmed that the annual property conference could be moved to Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham from 2025.
Built Environment Networking, the company behind UKREiiF, has not ruled out keeping the event at Leeds Dock and Royal Armouries beyond 2024, but acknowledges the growth of the conference since its launch in 2022 might prompt the need for a larger venue.
A report by Arup found that Leeds’ hotels were completely full during this year’s three-day event, a statistic that is likely to raise eyebrows ahead of the 2024 edition.
UKREiiF attracted 9,500 official and fringe delegates in 2023 and BEN expects this to increase to 15,000 in 2024.
As a result, 18 additional pavilions and several new buildings are planned, according to the event’s operations director Louise Eyre.
“The event’s footprint is set to double for 2024,” she said.
“We have ambitious plans to expand our audience and the activities at UKREiiF. Hence, we are aiming to future-proof the event by choosing a venue and city that align with our growth expectations.”
The presence of UKREiiF has been a boon for the industry in Leeds, allowing the city to be showcased on a national stage – and some feel the benefits are mutual, that the event has benefitted from being a major thing for Leeds, rather than ‘just another’ event in a more conference-led city.
Paul Mitchell, chairman of national architecture practice The Harris Partnership, said: “UKREIIF has been a fantastic event for Leeds and Yorkshire.
“As a national business with offices across the UK we appreciate the desire of the organisers to move it around but feel that Leeds and Yorkshire culture has been a critical component to the event’s success, and I would fear moving it may mean it loses something and becomes just another trade show.”
Phil Tomalin, partner and head of the Yorkshire office for multi-expertise property and construction consultancy, Ridge and Partners, commented: “UKREIIF has been an excellent addition to property events calendar and over the last three years has helped shine a spotlight on the investment and development opportunities not just in Leeds but across the UK.
“As head of the Yorkshire office I’d like to see the event stay in Leeds because of not only the economic impact it has on the city but also as a galvanising event for the region’s property community.
“However, I understand the desire to move it to new locations and hope it can continue to act as a beacon to attract, investors and others to experience not just the cosmopolitan communities which exist outside of the M25 but also the scale of the opportunities there are across the country.”
For those travelling from outside the region, there is a feeling that the event has outgrown its current venue, according to attendees at this year’s UKREiiF that our sister title Place North West spoke to.
As well as the scarcity and cost of hotel rooms, queues for the food trucks were often long and many of the panel discussions were impossible to get into unless delegates arrived half an hour early.
There were also concerns that, if the weather were to turn, there would be a shortage of places to find shelter as much of the current UKREiiF set-up is outdoor.
It seems that BEN has taken all of this into account, announcing today that four cities – Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool – have been shortlisted to host the event in 2025, 2026, and 2027.
“The rapid growth of UKREiiF has fast-tracked our plans,” said UKREiiF founder and chief executive Keith Griffiths.
“We’re now exploring options to future-proof the event, prompting our review of the venue and host city. While Leeds remains a contender for 2025 and beyond, and the feedback about the city has been stellar, we’ve been equally impressed by other cities we’ve visited. The potential venues and the teams we might collaborate with make the decision challenging.”
UKREiiF 2024 will be held at Leeds Dock from 21 to 23 May.